Garden Cameos: Now is the perfect time to spot wildflowers
Walking in the woods and finding wildflowers in bloom is a highlight of early spring. I am fortunate to live in the foothills where I can find many lovely wildflowers blooming this time of year. Some of the more common ones that bloom in the early spring are worth a hike to see. These jewels are called spring ephemerals.
One of the first to bloom is hepatica or liverleaf. The brilliance and iridescence of the flower petals makes this little flower catch one’s eye. They are similar in size to African violets or primroses but the leaves are quite different. The leaves are distinctive having three lobes that have a little muddled pattern.
Hepatica flowers are shaped like an open bowl in either blue, lavender, or white and occasionally, but rarely, pink. They are native to North America from Canada and south to Florida. They are evergreen in our area and in early March, flowers on 6-inch spikes start to appear. In the wild, they are found in acidic soil that is rich with leaf-mold that is well drained. I have seen this plant as a single plant while walking in the mountains and in a large colony with about 30 blooms in lower Spartanburg County, South Carolina.
Another very early wildflower is bloodroot. The petals are narrow and white with gold stamens. The leaves are deep lobed and quite distinct. The roots contain an orange-red sap, giving it the name of bloodroot. These flowers stand out in the woods when in flower because there is little greenery out at this time and the backdrop of brown leaf-litter surrounding the plant makes the flowers more obvious.
Trillium, is another flower that brightens the woods and fields in early spring and is considered to be the royalty of woodland gardens. To encounter a large mass of these lovely flowers in the spring is a sight to remember.
Trilliums have three leaves, three sepals and three petals and appear before the trees leaf out in spring. There are more than 40 species and the North Carolina parks claims to have 10 of them. I have seen several but just the simple ones that are white and pink and seen along dirt roads are favorites. These jewels of the forest floor are one of the most popular wildflowers in our area.
Trillium are easy to grow and are often available in specialty garden centers. They can be expensive because it takes about four years from seed to be the size plant that blooms. You can see these blooming along the side of Pearson’s Fall Road and of course you can see these and others if you go to the beautiful Pearson Falls, both north of Tryon, North Carolina.
Another favorite is the lady slipper orchids. The pink ones are much more prevalent and I have seen these on many occasions growing in stands of pine trees. They like the acidic soil that the pine needles produce and the dappled sunlight. There is a yellow orchid that was once more common but today it is not as common as the pink.
These flowers mentioned above are called spring ephemerals because the flowers appear before the leaves are on the trees making them stand out in the brown forest floor. They grow in rich, well-drained soil that is moist this time of year. The flowers fade as the soil dries out, sleeping for another year until the conditions are right again.
Betty Montgomery is a correspondent for The Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal. She can be reached at BMontgomery40@gmail.com or 864-585-9213.